Delighted to be joined by Choc Lit author Kirsty Ferry this week as she tells us about her childhood holiday memories. She has recently released a fun book, It Started With a Pirate which is already getting great reviews. Over to Kirsty …
When I think about it, a lot of the things I experienced in my childhood holidays have found their way into my books. The Cornish cottage that Lissy stays in, in The Girl in the Photograph, for example, is vividly painted in my imagination as the cottage we used to stay in at Appledore, near Tiverton, in Devon – not to be confused with Appeldore on the coast down there. I know it’s a different county, but I recall the quirky, old, white-painted bungalow which had a huge garden out the back, and I used to climb up onto the lawn (it had steps up to it) and run to the far end of it where I could hide out amongst the trees and take root in the little wooded area with my books and drawing things.
On one memorable holiday there, we went for a touristy trip on the Tiverton canal, and the narrowboat was pulled along the towpath by a horse. I was in secondary school and loved my English lessons, and I knew we’d have to write about our holidays when we got back. The word I came up with to describe it then was ‘idyllic’ and I still think of those two things hand-in-hand, even nowadays. I also have fond memories of visiting Tintagel Castle in Cornwall a few years earlier, and looking at the Witch Rock Joel and Rosa visit in Summer at Carrick Park, when they are having their “Green Smoke Dragon Day”.
We used to have two holidays a year – I was very lucky, when I think about it. We’d go away the last Bank Holiday week in May, and also for a week in August, but always to somewhere in the UK. One year we did Land’s End in the May, and John O’Groats in the summer. We stayed for a couple of nights at my mum’s cousin’s flat in Scotland that year, and I remember on the last night we did a fashion show – she let me wear all her lovely dresses as I paraded around the house, and the finale was a beautiful white broderie anglaise frock, along with her wedding veil! She let me keep the veil, which was very kind.
Another time, we visited more of the Highlands of Scotland and went to Skye and Culloden and from then my deep love of all things Jacobite emerged. You’ll maybe notice that the Jacobites are a little bit of a recurring theme in my books – Killiecrankie and Culloden are mentioned by Angel in Spring at Taigh Fallon, and she loves the Skye Boat Song. She’s also extremely moved by ruined crofts and the Highland Clearances and even Eilean Donan Castle. Yes, that’s all me, that is…along with the fact Flora MacDonald is a kind of heroine to some of my heroines (and Nessa from the Schubert series has Flora as one of her middle names!). It Started with a Pirate is a prime example of how I’ve always wanted to do a Jacobite story, and finally I’ve done it – yay!
I remember that year, as we were driving up through the Highlands, I couldn’t help but be stunned by the scenery and the aforementioned crofts. I had some pastels and some charcoal and stuff with me (I always had art stuff and books and writing equipment on a long journey!) and my Dad pulled the car over into a layby so I could draw it. My mum and my gran, who were also in the car, were less than impressed. That art stuff had come with me to Devon as well, because I bought a postcard of Stonehenge when we visited that on the way down, and we’d barely unpacked when I’d ran off and was scribbling away at a messy (and rather terrible) picture of Stonehenge in my private little woods!
One of the nicest things about the long journeys was lying down for a nap in the back with my head on my gran’s knees. She always, always wore a pinny (a Geordie term for an apron!) and it always had a special smell of baking and washing powder about it. I’d bury my nose into it, take a few deep breaths and that was me asleep for a few hours – or at least until someone said ‘Food!’ and I’d wake up like a shot. Not much changes!
I won’t dwell too much here on Canal Cottages in Wales, where we left after only a couple of days as the place was rank. The kettle blew up as soon as Mum switched it on, the springs were through the nasty smelly mattresses, there was a huge cockroach or something that came out in the bedroom – it survived a wallop to the head with one of my gran’s slippers, so goodness knows what it was – and it was a damp, horrid place and it rained relentlessly. I also won’t discuss the camping expedition near Stratford upon Avon, where we came back to the airbeds floating around the tent thanks to more torrential rain (and my “Stratford upon Avon” bracelet snapped in the car coming back. I was only about 5 and I vividly remember all the letters falling off it and me thrusting it at Dad and demanding he ‘Fix it!’ even though he was driving). Or the caravan holiday in Scotland where someone had a drunken argument every night yelling, ‘Christopher! Christopher!’ in the van next to us… .but who knows – those experiences might yet find their way into a story; and if they do, you’ll know it’s based on fact!
About Kirsty Ferry
Kirsty Ferry is from the North East of England and lives there with her husband and son. She won the English Heritage/Belsay Hall National Creative Writing competition in 2009 and has had articles and short stories published in various magazines. Her work also appears in several anthologies, incorporating such diverse themes as vampires, crime, angels and more.
Kirsty loves writing ghostly mysteries and interweaving fact and fiction. The research is almost as much fun as writing the book itself, and if she can add a wonderful setting and a dollop of history, that’s even better.
Her day job involves sharing a building with an eclectic collection of ghosts, which can often prove rather interesting.
For more information on Kirsty visit:
About It Started With a Pirate
Coffee, cake and cats …
These are a few of Lexie Farrington’s favourite things, and when she walks into the Thistledean Café in Edinburgh, she’s delighted to find all three: coffee, cake, a big black cat on a purple lead being held by a very grumpy-looking pirate. Okay, maybe she wasn’t quite expecting that one …
Of course, Billy McCreadie isn’t really a pirate; he just knows a lot about them and is on his way to give a historical talk to school kids, hence the get-up. He’s also in desperate need of a cat sitter.
When Lexie steps in, little does she realise that Billy will be the key to a hidden Edinburgh she would have never discovered herself, and he might also be the man to help solve a certain piratical puzzle of her own …
Buying link for book – It Started with a Pirate (Schubert Book 4) eBook: Ferry, Kirsty: AmazonSmile: Kindle Store